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Anybody have a location to purchase monitors that I can use for online (web) access.  I want to monitor my system when I am on travel.  Someone had a system on youtube but he did not give any suggestions on the hardware it would take.  I am looking to monitor PH, PPM, Nitrite levels, etc. 

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Perhaps I can be of assistance with your wonderings regarding what tinkerers are capable of or would like to get out of a system.  I went through the entire thought process from building one up from scratch vs getting an off the shelf unit.  For me, the issue was partly South African, as I would be importing little bits and pieces and then trying to make them talk to each other versus just importing the completed unit - either way it was going to cost a lot and if it was going to cost a lot, I wanted someone else to do all the hard work.

 

I am the scientist on a team working on a modified aquaculture filter, where we basically set up manual testing either side (fish tank outflow and return) to see how things are going.  As we all know, shifts in water quality can be quite rapid, and so little system flutters were often overlooked. During the budget meeting for year 2, I explained this and suggested we get a computerised monitoring and logging system, which has been approved.  I should have it installed by the middle of this year at the latest.  I am more than happy to share with the group what it is that I end up buying, how it works and what its capabilities / useful features are in order for home tinkerers to compare their efforts with.  I do not like the idea of computers in greenhouses thus I am opting for probes and controllers in there, communicating results out of the greenhouse via modem / radio frequency to my home pc.  

John R said:

 

TCLynx - I checked out the PICAXE parts and they're pretty good price wise.  I've been totally up parts and such and my own boards can't beat $50 in just the parts cost which makes the BASICSTAMP look pretty good.  I'm wondering what the threshold is for tinkerers out there in terms of capabilities and cost.  Is the ability to program in BASIC something people would appreciate?  Or would people rather not program at all and have menus/wizards to assign sensor information.

 

Also, you might want to check out the systems at www.mini-box.com for computers that could be used as webservers.

I bought a couple of systems using the D945GSEJT motherboard that can run on 12VDC along with an enclosure, drive, power supply and backpanel with riser card - total cost each around $250.  These are pretty nice systems and have been pretty reliable - one gave me a few issues (quite likely my fault) but the other has operated flawlessly.  They don't have fans but I'm not sure that they would survive well in the humidity and tempertures of a greenhouse.  There are systems that are better suited for that environment but they are significantly (100%) more expensive.

 

John, I'm not really sure of the answers at the moment, as the electronics tinkering is kinda a new thing to me.  I did have some one work up and build a board for me to control my automated valve on the big system.  That has a regular pic and it is one of those programs where to change the programing, when I turn it on I have to count flashes and press a button at the right instant to program which is kinda a pain but it isn't something I change often once I get it set right in the first place.

 

the picaxe chips are great for a newby to inexpensively get the proto board for hooking to my computer and programing and the chips are inexpensive.  to re-program my timer, I bring the chip in and reprogram it with my computer then re-install it in the timer.  These chips are not really meant for making the really complex/really programmable controllers though I'm sure a really smart electronics guy could do it for a price.  (but for that kind of price there are probably already sensaphone or other systems out there to do it.)

 

For what I'm doing, I think something like the web server in a box might be useful but I'll probably have to hook up an old computer to deal with web cams and tracking other things.  Mind might be a little muddled since I spend much of last evening fighting with my firewall and trying to get the web cam ftp to work with my host.

 

Will be interested in hearing about the system Kobus puts in place and how it does.  The graphs of things that could come from it may be very useful.

Ooooooooo picaxe looks promising. Looks like I'll dust off my bench and play electronics tech again.
I'll watch for you on the picaxe forum then.  I just picked up the package from the mail that has my temperature sensor so I guess I'll start hooking that up to see how it works.

FarmerWilly said:
Ooooooooo picaxe looks promising. Looks like I'll dust off my bench and play electronics tech again.
If all goes according to plan, I will have a control unit that monitors pH, temperature, DO (Redox) and Salinity either side of the filter unit.  It has the capacity to control if you hook it up to stuff such as pH control pumps, but I want to use it solely as a logger.  It can also have a water level sensor and light meter etc.  I just want it to have the four parameters I'm interested in logged onto a web site through ethernet / modem configuration in real time. Everything will feed through local hubs and controllers for adjustment on site.  I will also have a warning system that will communicate to me via sms if anything is outside of desired parameters.  It would therefore be a monitoring system rather than a control unit, but with the type of software and controllers that I will have, I would be able to do web-based control and adjustment with a bit more electronics.  At an estimated cost of around $5000 for what I'm getting now, that will have to wait. Obviously that cost is roughly 2 x what most people would need as it has 2 sets of everything in one greenhouse, but there is logic to the configuration for my current work.

TCLynx said:

John, I'm not really sure of the answers at the moment, as the electronics tinkering is kinda a new thing to me.  I did have some one work up and build a board for me to control my automated valve on the big system.  That has a regular pic and it is one of those programs where to change the programing, when I turn it on I have to count flashes and press a button at the right instant to program which is kinda a pain but it isn't something I change often once I get it set right in the first place.

 

the picaxe chips are great for a newby to inexpensively get the proto board for hooking to my computer and programing and the chips are inexpensive.  to re-program my timer, I bring the chip in and reprogram it with my computer then re-install it in the timer.  These chips are not really meant for making the really complex/really programmable controllers though I'm sure a really smart electronics guy could do it for a price.  (but for that kind of price there are probably already sensaphone or other systems out there to do it.)

 

For what I'm doing, I think something like the web server in a box might be useful but I'll probably have to hook up an old computer to deal with web cams and tracking other things.  Mind might be a little muddled since I spend much of last evening fighting with my firewall and trying to get the web cam ftp to work with my host.

 

Will be interested in hearing about the system Kobus puts in place and how it does.  The graphs of things that could come from it may be very useful.

Kobus Jooste said:

During the budget meeting for year 2, I explained this and suggested we get a computerised monitoring and logging system, which has been approved.  I should have it installed by the middle of this year at the latest.  I am more than happy to share with the group what it is that I end up buying, how it works and what its capabilities / useful features are in order for home tinkerers to compare their efforts with.  I do not like the idea of computers in greenhouses thus I am opting for probes and controllers in there, communicating results out of the greenhouse via modem / radio frequency to my home pc.   

 


What system are you evaluating Kobus...

I am looking at YSI, Hanna and Aquatronica.  I do not like the aquaculture-based electronics all that much because it is geared for large commercial operations and that kind of environment - typically the shortest probe cable I can get is 4 meters long and that sort of thing (I also have to look at what is already here in South Africa as I do not want to import bits and pieces).  Typically they have their own software that you cannot really mess with (Aquatronica stuff can be re-worked and customised) and require a dedicated pc (the ones I can get here).  The nice thing about aquatronica is that their systems are geared for large aquariums, and as the set-up I want to monitor is only about 3500 liters in size, it makes more sense.  I also like the aquatronica interface - giving you the ability to access your data on a web site, thus not having to have a computer in the greenhouse, just the modem and controllers.

 

As I said in the post, I am really just looking for something that log all the parameters I am interested in rather than having a dedicated system of control and warning.  The system is really stable and even if it shuts down right now, would be alright for quite a while.  The aquatronica set-up allows me 2 full monitoring stations with sms and wireless connectivity for the price of one YSI monitoring station.      

RupertofOZ said:

Kobus Jooste said:

During the budget meeting for year 2, I explained this and suggested we get a computerised monitoring and logging system, which has been approved.  I should have it installed by the middle of this year at the latest.  I am more than happy to share with the group what it is that I end up buying, how it works and what its capabilities / useful features are in order for home tinkerers to compare their efforts with.  I do not like the idea of computers in greenhouses thus I am opting for probes and controllers in there, communicating results out of the greenhouse via modem / radio frequency to my home pc.   

 


What system are you evaluating Kobus...

I created a new Group specifically geared to automation and remote monitoring.

Automation and Remote Monitoring

 

 

Kobus Jooste said:

I am looking at YSI, Hanna and Aquatronica.  I do not like the aquaculture-based electronics all that much because it is geared for large commercial operations and that kind of environment - typically the shortest probe cable I can get is 4 meters long and that sort of thing (I also have to look at what is already here in South Africa as I do not want to import bits and pieces).  Typically they have their own software that you cannot really mess with (Aquatronica stuff can be re-worked and customised) and require a dedicated pc (the ones I can get here).  The nice thing about aquatronica is that their systems are geared for large aquariums, and as the set-up I want to monitor is only about 3500 liters in size, it makes more sense.  I also like the aquatronica interface - giving you the ability to access your data on a web site, thus not having to have a computer in the greenhouse, just the modem and controllers.

 

As I said in the post, I am really just looking for something that log all the parameters I am interested in rather than having a dedicated system of control and warning.  The system is really stable and even if it shuts down right now, would be alright for quite a while.  The aquatronica set-up allows me 2 full monitoring stations with sms and wireless connectivity for the price of one YSI monitoring station.      


The Aquatronica doesn't appear to have wireless connectivity from what I've seen... merely usb ports, or 6 port usb hubs... with an "interface" to a PC...

 

 

And is intended for pristine lightly stocked aquariums.. unlike heavier stocked "dirtier" RAS type system...

 

Nor does it have ammonia or nitrate probes... or feeder controller ability...

 

On the other hand, while certainly more expensive... the YSI has all of these things... and interfaces of RS232/RS454, Ethernet, or Wireless... to a wireless hub/router... without the need for a dedicated PC in the greenhouse/fish room...

 

The YSI also has optional 10 meter probe cables...

 

On Australian prices... the YSI is only about 30% dearer than the Aquatronica....

 

YSI's long standing involvement in aquaculture and producing rugged real life meters... is time proven... and proven to work in aquaculture ponds and water qualities way beyond anything you'd find in an aquarium...

 

I'd certainly go for the YSI myself...

Correction... the Aquatronica does appear to have optional SMS and Ethernet interfaces from the usb hub... as well as an "interface" from the usb hub to PC...

Which suddenly makes it a lot more of an option than YSI.  I also do not have any need whatsoever for the 10 m cable - the distance from my fish tank to where the controller will be installed is around 2 meters.  ORP is borderline ok for me in the application that this system is intended for, although nitrate and ammonia probes will be nice.  I'll give the guys a buzz to see if a probe from another company can be slotted into their monitoring grid.  In South African terms, I'd be paying around R 30 000 for aquatronica and R60 000 for YSI, and then I still need a computer.  Their long presence in aquaculture does not pursuade me to part with 50% more.  That is like arguing that if I need a car it must be a Mercedes because they have been at it for longer than Toyota or whoever.

 

As for the fact that aquatronica originated from marine aquaria, I do not think that is an issue.  pH 7 and 26 degrees happens everywhere- aquarium or aquaponics.  We happily use aquaculture and hydroponic gear in aquaponics, so I have no issue with investigating aquarium probes for my greenhouse.  The quality of the probe and software is all that should matter, but price is very important for this project, obviously.

RupertofOZ said:

Correction... the Aquatronica does appear to have optional SMS and Ethernet interfaces from the usb hub... as well as an "interface" from the usb hub to PC...

I mentioned the fact that YSI had a long record in the aquaculture area... principally because of the solids loading and nature of water quality in both pond based and RAS operations... as opposed to the generally more pristine aquaria systems...

 

Thus a proven track record of online meters/probes that work in an environment that is more similar to what we're likely to find in AP...

 

I've seen other, albeit much cheaper offerings... that, while supposedly constant online solutions... just didn't hack it for more than a week or two...

Kobus Jooste said:

Which suddenly makes it a lot more of an option than YSI.  I also do not have any need whatsoever for the 10 m cable - the distance from my fish tank to where the controller will be installed is around 2 meters.  ORP is borderline ok for me in the application that this system is intended for, although nitrate and ammonia probes will be nice.  I'll give the guys a buzz to see if a probe from another company can be slotted into their monitoring grid.  In South African terms, I'd be paying around R 30 000 for aquatronica and R60 000 for YSI, and then I still need a computer.  Their long presence in aquaculture does not pursuade me to part with 50% more.  That is like arguing that if I need a car it must be a Mercedes because they have been at it for longer than Toyota or whoever.

 

As for the fact that aquatronica originated from marine aquaria, I do not think that is an issue.  pH 7 and 26 degrees happens everywhere- aquarium or aquaponics.  We happily use aquaculture and hydroponic gear in aquaponics, so I have no issue with investigating aquarium probes for my greenhouse.  The quality of the probe and software is all that should matter, but price is very important for this project, obviously.

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